PGA rookies want Fuzzy feeling

PGA rookies want Fuzzy feeling

April 4th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Professional

Fuzzy Zoeller set the mark in 1979 as the last golfer to win the Masters in his first attempt.

Most of the 15 tournament rookies this year were not alive 33 years ago when Zoeller beat Ed Sneed and Tom Watson on the second hole of a playoff.

Six of the rookies are amateurs. But the nine professionals include a major champion in Keegan Bradley -- he won the 2011 PGA Championship -- and Webb Simpson, who led the PGA Tour money list in October last year.

Should one of them win this week, or a fellow rookie such as Kyle Stanley, who won the Phoenix Open to earn his invitation, he will have conquered what has become common: Masters veterans winning the Masters.

"Last year, at the PGA, it helped me that it was my first major and I didn't really know what was going on and I was just able to play my game," Bradley said Tuesday at his pre-tournament news conference. "I think, in a weird way, it sometimes helps you.

"But certainly, experience is something I'm giving up at this tournament."

Experience at Augusta National includes several factors. Among them, golfers need to learn how to react to the gallery, the subtle breaks in the greens and where they can still make par instead of bogey (or worse) after an errant shot.

There's no need to learn the lean of every blade of grass or the location of every Georgia pine -- just the important ones.

Bradley has picked the brain of three-time champion Phil Mickelson and played a pre-tournament practice round with his mentor.

"Phil has told me where to hit some shots, where to miss some shots, what pins to go at, what pins not to go at," said Bradley, who was fifth in the 2010 Chattanooga Classic on the Nationwide Tour. "I found myself just kind of watching Phil, what he was doing, kind of off to the side."

It's fair to assume all of the rookies have sought advice from the veterans. That's been a tradition for years.

Tiger Woods played in a trio with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in 1995, which included a skins game and a playoff on the par-3 course.

Woods has won the tournament four times since then and experienced the evolution of the course with what was called "Tiger-Proofing." Woods said he's more than willing to share his knowledge.

"I think it's just the role of being here, one, as a champion, and being here a number of years is that you pass knowledge on," said Woods, who is playing in the Masters for the 18th time.

"It's not something that we hold and are going to keep sacred," he said. "We pass it on from one generation to the next. That's what we do."

But all of the veterans must keep one blade-of-grass-sized secret away from rookies, right? Because Zoeller is the only first-timer of the last 75 years to win a green jacket.